I only recently read my first romance by Holley Trent, and was blown away by it. So when I learned that the next book in the series was coming soon, I was thrilled at the chance to interview her about it. The Coyote’s Bride is a deeply compelling shifter romance about an m/f couple who got married fast because of a pregnancy and now, after a miscarriage, are pretty sure they don’t want to stay that way. Its a road trip romance between two prickly, guarded, complex characters who mostly hate each other until they realize they love each other, and it’s an intensely engaging ride of a story that grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go.
I’m so glad to share this wonderful interview with Holley Trent, where she talks about this book, and the the prior book in the series, discussing craft questions and influences and the ways the current political climate has influenced her work.
A Bit About Holley
Holley Trent is a bestselling and award-winning author of extra-sensual paranormal and contemporary romance. She’s as known for her intricate world building as she is for her fondness for snappy banter and off-color humor. In addition to popular self-published series like The Afótama Legacy and Shrew & Company, she has works available through imprints of Harlequin, Kensington, and Simon and Schuster. Holley also writes sexy, high-conflict science fiction romance as H.E. Trent.
An Interview with Holley
How would you describe yourself to a new reader just discovering your work?
I write romance stories about unexpected protagonists who have to pretend to be heroes.
What authors or books have you been reading lately that you would highly recommend?
I haven’t actually gotten much reading done lately! I hate to admit that. Right now, my kids are out of school for the summer and I’m getting less done all around. I am glomming as many audiobooks as I can right now, though. My last was A Princess in Theory (Alyssa Cole), and I’ve been doing re-listens of a lot of Sarah MacLean and Tessa Dare, and collecting Beverly Jenkins’ backlist audio as well. I try not to consume the same romance sub-genre that my current project is in so I don’t inadvertently echo themes and tropes. Historical romances tend to keep me out of trouble in that regard.
What sparked The Coyote’s Bride for you? What made you want to write this particular story?
This story sort of congealed for me when I was doing a research trip down in New Mexico last fall. I drove alone, all the way from Albuquerque down to Las Cruces, and slowly made my way back up over a few days. I had a lot of time to think (and had my very first encounter with Border Patrol—it was neutral).
It wasn’t until I got to Elephant Butte State Park that that I realized I could have The Coyote’s Bride be a road trip/forced proximity romance where Lily and Lance would not only have a Big Relationship Problem to sort out, but they’d confront an external conflict that I could use in a future spinoff.
I really appreciated the way you represent miscarriage in the story, it’s something that I so rarely see on the page. Can you talk a bit about writing this aspect of the story, and why you decided to include it?
This was one of those situations where the little muse in my head who gives me the thumbs-up or thumbs-down kinda hinted that it was time. I’ve written dozens of books and in none of them before this one did I address an issue that’s about as a common in women as chronic anxiety. I’ve written plenty of characters with anxiety disorders, but hadn’t been ready to tackle miscarriage before now. Like Lily, the heroine in The Coyote’s Bride, I had a pregnancy loss that ended up with an emergency visit to the hospital.
Often, women don’t know how to talk about these things because we grew up hearing our mothers and their friends discussing them in hushed tones like they were so rare. I think because of that, a lot of people think that there’s fault involved when they happen, when it’s just very normal odds in play. They are so common and it helped me feel so much better to know how often they occur, and so I wanted to write a character who could talk about it.
I fell really hard for Martha, and was struck by how rare it felt to read a shifter romance with a baby in it, and how much Martha added to the story. What made you decide to include a baby in this story?
I really needed to show that the actions of all the central players are going to have lasting and substantial consequences for people who can’t speak up for themselves. Because Martha is so young, she’s at even more risk for negative impact to her life than anyone else because she has zero agency.
This is something I think about every time an election comes up—if we’re creating issues my children will have to clean up in the future.
Lance starts out grumpy to the point of being rude and irritable, and Lily snipes right back at him. You give us two prickly defensive MCs who have all this depth and complexity that continually unfold for the reader as the story evolves. You do the same kind of slow unfolding in the previous book, The Coyote’s Cowboy. How do you build this kind of characterization?
I always start by reminding myself that characters need experiences to make them the way they are. They can’t just be mean for the sake of temporary drama that resolves in a scene or two. In real life, strangers are slow to share their traumas with each other. They don’t want to be judged or have their pain minimized, and so I think it’s fair that Lily and Lance would have to take some time to earn each other’s confidences. Lily and Lance started off on the wrong foot and they both have personalities that made rebounding from that difficult, and I think that happens more often in real life than we see in romance!
I really appreciated the ADHD representation in The Coyote’s Cowboy; it felt very real, gave me so many feels, and resonated for me as a fellow neuroatypical person. Can you talk a bit about writing that aspect of the story?
Oh, this was one of those situations where I sort of had to put myself on both sides. I’m in the ongoing learning process of parenting a child who straddles that blurry line between ASD and ADHD. There’s a lot of frustration all around because he’s so capable, except when he can’t be, and the tough thing is figuring out when those times are. I’m learning to expect pathways to goals aren’t always going to be straight lines and that sometimes, goals have to be adjusted mid-stride.
I understand what it feels like for people to not understand the concept of “This is impossible for me right now.” I think a lot of people who’ve dealt with chronic anxiety and depression get that. People assume that they should be capable of doing something because in their opinion, the obstacles in front of them seem so small. They can’t understand that for those people, the brain doesn’t work quite the same way and they can’t just wish themselves well.
It’s clear that one of the core things you wanted to do in The Coyote’s Cowboy was to show the impact of an abusive gaslighting alpha. You depict the impact of gaslighting with so much nuance, it really resonated for me. Can you tell me what motivated you to center this in the story, and how you tackled this aspect of writing the book?
The current political environment spurred me on, honestly. I’m definitely not going to hedge about that. Also, I’ve had the unfortunate history of having dated some of those guys and having had women in my family date and marry those guys who wouldn’t be able to keep a partner if they hadn’t been experts in manipulation.
I can say now that hindsight is 20/20.
What’s next on the horizon for you, and for this series?
I’m having a lot of fun right now with the final arc of this series! Coming up next is Lola and Tarik’s story. That’ll be a PNR that’s probably about 85% historical and ends in modern-day New Mexico. I’ve got a holiday novella planned for the series featuring Diana Shapely and her long-suffering ex-girlfriend, and finally a portal fantasy featuring the defiant fallen angel that sparked this story world.
Also, I’ve got some CONTEMPORARY ménage e-roms in the hopper, including an FFM, and I’m sure that’ll perk up my readers who have been waiting for me to write a book again that doesn’t have magic (or outer space).
More About The Coyote’s Bride
Being related to one of the oldest shapeshifter legacies in Maria, Lily Baxter grew up knowing there was a chance she’d find romance amongst the supernatural. Too bad her idea of romance wasn’t a drunken one-night-stand with a Coyote she loves to hate, an unsentimental Vegas wedding, and then soon after, a heartrending miscarriage. She and Lance Aitkenson obviously aren’t meant to be. While secretly coordinating their divorce far from the snoops back in town, her new husband gets jumped by man-hating jaguar shifters…and it’s up to her to smooth things over.
Feuding with enemy shifter groups is kind of written into Lance’s job description as a Coyote pack lieutenant, but there’s something stranger than normal about the Jaguars. Not only do they seem to have abilities no other shapeshifters have, but they claim a centuries-old connection to Maria’s resident goddess. They see strong-minded Lily as a kindred spirit, but Lance fears sinister motives.
Together, he and Lily might be able to unravel the secrets of the mysterious cult and prevent them from disturbing the peace back in Maria, but can they really work cooperatively when they’re so close to calling it quits? Or will they realize that they don’t need an accident to be their excuse for being together?
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